Years before Google instituted 20 per cent time, a team of scientists in the UK was working on pet projects in their spare time.Konstantin Novoselov describes these “scientific diversions” in Jonathan Fields’ new book Uncertainty:
just do all kinds of crazy things that probably won’t pan out at all, but if they do, it would be really surprising. [Andre] Geim did frog levitation as one of these experiments, and then we did gecko tape together. There are many more that were unsuccessful and never went anywhere (though I still had a good time thinking about and doing those experiments, so I love them no less that the successful ones).
Novoselov and Geim’s projects paid off one evening with the discovery of Graphene, a super-strong, super-light substance that would earn them the Nobel Prize in 2010.
Of course Google’s 20% time famously led to the invention of Gmail by Paul Buchheit.
The question you should be asking is why doesn’t your company encourage more crazy diversions.
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